Dutch Prosecutors used coercive measures on journalists 15 times in 3 years: report

The Public Prosecutor 15 times used coercive measures against journalists over the past three years. These measures include eavesdropping on calls, retrieving phone data and requisition of journalistic materials, NRC reports based on information received through the Open Government Act.

In September Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said in a letter to parliament that he knows about three incidents in which coercive measures were used against journalists, adding that the Public Prosecutor had "no other ongoing investigations". 

The difference between the three cases reported by Grapperhaus and the 15 cases in the data NRC received, lies in the difference between eavesdropping on a journalist and other coercive measures, the Public Prosecutor said to the newspaper. In the letter to parliament Grapperhaus only reported cases in which journalists were eavesdropped on, the other cases involved measures like taking a journalist in for questioning and seizing journalistic material. 

In a new letter to parliament Grapperhaus now wrote that "in the other cases the source protection was not at stake or the violation of source protection was justified, with the exception of one case". According to NRC, that one case refers to freelance photographer Chris Keulen's camera being seized in September last year.

The list NRC received includes three cases in which the call details of a journalist were requested. One of these involves a journalist for Brabants Dagblad, who spoke to a source from a confidential committee about the appointment of the mayor in Den Bosch. The Prosecutor wanted to know who this source is, and asked for phone numbers without the journalist's knowledge. The Prosecutor also made preparations to eavesdrop on the journalist, even going so far as to get authorization from the court, but this measure was never used. The Public Prosecutor later apologized for not acting in accordance with the Instructions on the use of coercive measures on journalists in this case.

The data also mentions a case from this year in which data was seized from a production company working on a television program on suicide. "This was done with a view on discovering the circumstances that led to the suicide (...) Now that all parties involved indicated that they want to cooperate voluntarily, there are no interests at stake", NRC quotes from the data received. According to the newspaper, this likely involves company Simpel Media and the program Moord of Zelfmoord. 

Earlier this year the Public Prosecutor admitted to not following the proper procedures when eavesdropping on journalists in the investigation into the murder of Reduan B. in Amsterdam and the investigation into a police officer suspected of leaking information to the media.